THIS IS AN EXERCISE. THIS IS NOT A REAL EVENT.
Children are happiest when they can continue in the routines that make them feel comfortable and safe. By staying informed and teaching sensible precautions, you can keep life as normal as possible and help your child feel more secure in the face of the threat of a pandemic.
What to Say
Find out what they know.
As the threat of a flu pandemic gains public attention, it is likely that children will hear something about it on television or from a friend. Ask your child to tell you what he or she knows about the topic. Having your child tell you about the flu pandemic, rather than you telling him or her about it, lets you know what misconceptions or misunderstandings he or she may have.
Explain the facts.
A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. The disease spreads easily from person to person, causes serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in very short time.
Flu Terms Defined
- Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.
- Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person.
Talk about hygiene.
Having a discussion about flu provides an excellent opportunity to reinforce good hygiene practices, as they will not only help protect the child during a flu pandemic, but will also keep him or her healthier in general.
- Teach your children to wash hands frequently. The correct way to wash hands is to rub them vigorously together for 10 to 15 seconds using soap and water. Explain that their hands pick up invisible little germs that can make them sick. The germs get inside when they touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. Washing with soap and water gets rid of the germs before they can make them sick. Another option is to teach them how to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Sanitizers with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol or 60% ethyl alcohol are effective.
- Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues. Explain that the germs are caught in the tissue and can’t get out where they can make other people sick. Make sure they know that they should properly dispose of the tissue and then wash their hands.
- Teach your children to be careful not to get too close to others if he or she feels sick.
- Teach your child to practice good general health habits, like eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough rest.
Make a Plan
In a pandemic flu situation, you and your child’s routines may be interrupted. You may even find that authorities advise you to stay in your home to prevent the spread of the illness. Think about what you will need in the event that this occurs and make a plan for your family so that you are prepared. Stock up on food, water, and medications. Experts recommend that you have at least three days worth of supplies in your home in case of emergency. Also have games, activities, and ways that they can communicate with friends (like over email) ready for your children to make the time spent confined at home less stressful.
Of course, should the level of infection risk rise, greater caution will be warranted.
Stay informed of recent developments.
- Check healthvermont.gov, www.pandemicflu.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov frequently for updates.
- Use national and local pandemic hotlines that will be established if there is a global influenza outbreak.
- Listen to radio and television, and read media stories about the pandemic and follow the instructions of your local health authorities.